10.12.2012 The Vigil

7:30 Rush home from my son’s soccer game (which I totally slept through).  It’s already dark and the chicken tractors are not closed up for the night.  Begin to panic.  Rush out to the pasture to secure the doors and make sure an attack has not already occurred.  All the chickens are fine and 0012 has decided not to roost on top of his chicken tractor tonight.  He’s inside with all the girls, but he’s roosting on the ground.  Not a safe place these days.  I have been trying for two to convince him roost bars are for roosters. He’s a real dunder head.  Handsome but stupid.

8:00 Set up a camp chair outside the chicken enclosure.  I don’t hunt, but I make sure to stay down wind of the chickens.  I make sure if shots are fired they have no chance of hitting my neighbor’s house.  I didn’t bring the 22.  Just a flash light, but I’ve enlisted the son of a friend to do the actual shooting.  I can hit what I aim at, but it takes a lot of aiming.  A lot of breathing and a lot more aiming.  My goal tonight is to identify the chicken ripper and note his method of attack so I can better defend against it.  I’d rather not kill him if it’s possible to encourage him to move on.  If my assistant happens to nail him, I won’t complain though.  If I catch him in my trap and have the time (and light) I need to aim the 22, I will pull the trigger.  It’s my duty to my chickens and those of my neighbors.  But really, I’d rather not.

I have my jacket on only because it is forecast to be cold tonight.  I am nearly sweating.  I sit down with the wind in my face.  It’s blowing harder than it has all day.  Front is coming through.  I am on top of a hill.  Despite the windbreak of the tree line in front of me, I very soon grow cold.  Note to self:  If you must wear jeans to a stalking, wear something under them.  The feet are fine in my brand new muck boots.  The upper body is snug in a long sleeve turtle neck and fleece jacket.  The legs are cold.  Very cold.

8:15 Send a text to my husband.  I need a blanket.  It’s very dark.  No moon.  Just starlight and the lampposts at the end of the neighbor’s driveway, about 150 yards away.  There is also some ambient light coming from the church 300 yards away.  But I can’t look at the lights.  I keep my eyes focused on the chicken tractors.  I can just make out their shapes against the backdrop of the tree line along the road.

8:30 Husband arrives with blanket.  Temperature is dropping quickly.  The blanket really helps.

8:45 The wind has blown in something nasty.  I have a sudden allergy attack.  Can’t hardly breathe and I am coughing in fits.  Making lots of noise.  I am a lousy hunter.  Send a another text to the house.  I need some water and some DayQuil.  Realize I have a 15 minute attention span before my brain seeks other entertainment.

9:00  Minion arrives with water and DayQuil.  With the psychological support of medication, the coughing dies almost immediately.  I am left alone again.  The wind is dying down, only coming in fits and spurts now.  I find my mind wandering back to another time I spent the night in a camp chair.  Standing guard over the remains of my mother-in-law’s house after hurricane Charley had paid it a visit.  It was very hot that night.  Florida in August.  Nothing like Virginia in October.  There were lots of soldiers with very large guns patrolling then.  Tonight, it was just me and my Mag Light.  In Florida we were surrounded by destruction.  Tonight, the spooks in the cemetery have my back.  Now that the wind has died down, I can hear better.  There is some scuffling in the grass off to my left.  Field mouse most likely.  I have lots.

9:15 Shooting star blasts by overhead.  Health and wealth and peace for all mankind.  Why do we wish on burning space debris?  Maybe if I made a more modest wish, it would come to pass.  Something sensible like please if there’s a frost tonight let it be a very light one the tomatoes can endure because with all the chicken madness this week, I didn’t get them covered.

9:30  Getting very, very cold.  My knees are starting to hurt.  That’s a new one.  Really wishing I’d worn sweats.  Nothing is happening.  Promise myself to stick it out until 10.

9:45 My relief party pulls into the drive way.  The pasture is quiet.

10:00 My relief party stumbles up the hill in the dark.  He’s brought his 22.  Unlike me, he can hit what he aims at.  If he can see it unlikely in the dark of this night.  With a few words of advice and warning about permissible lines of fire, I leave the relief party in charge of the hunt.  Go inside and tend the rooster.

10:35  The relief party comes back to the house.  Says he sat absolutely still for 30 minutes and absolutely nothing moved, therefore, there was nothing out there.  He’s probably right.  All my coughing probably convinced the chicken ripper that there was some awful contagion around the chickens tonight.  Better to skip a meal than contract a cough like that.  We deem the chickens safe for the night.  No shots fired.  No birds lost.

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